How to Stop those You Manage from Managing You

How to free time, reduce your to-do list, and move back to managing from being managed!!!

Many managers often find themselves with long to-do lists which get longer, with more seeming to have been added then taken off at the end of each day.  The fault for this most often lies with the manager himself or herself, especially if they are caring managers who want to help others.  Why is this?

First, let’s understand what we mean by a “monkey”.

What is a “monkey”?

A “monkey” is simply a task or project.  The important factor here is that every task requires ownership and supervision. The monkey metaphor is a nice way to describe how tasks get pushed toward managers when they really need to be kept away to improve efficiency. For example, if a staff member comes to me and says “I can’t find this” or “how should I do that”, what do you think is happening? They are passing their “monkey” to me:

  1. They identify a problem and immediately pass it to me
  2. I take the problem and offer a solution

In doing this the “monkey” is climbing off from your report’s back and onto your back.  This happens a couple of times a day, day-in and day out, and for every week.  Suddenly you wake up to find yourself overloaded with work while your reports twiddle their thumbs while they wait for you to come back to them with a solution.  They then hope that the work has been done and they have escaped the need of having to do it.

The irony here is that your reports come to you and ask for a status update on what they have, effectively, delegated to you!  The managers are being managed! And so you get managers who are running out of time while their reports are running out of work.  It is not a pretty picture, but it is one we all recognize, of managers feeling overwhelmed and becoming a bottleneck.

How You Should Manage the “Monkey”

There are two simple steps that ideally should occur, and which you need to have in place to ensure you are not managed – and in the process made a monkey!

What should happen is:

  1. Staff member identifies a problem and offers a solution
  2. You approve solution or recommend alternative

By following some very simple processes you can easily optimize my time, give staff more responsibility and motivation, and focus on the important things (which tend to get buried under the morass of other’s work.

By getting rid of the monkeys that others have given you, you free up time which you can spend with your people!  

Four Golden Rules for Monkey Management

When a report comes to you with a “monkey” (or two), here are a few guidelines on how to ensure the monkeys (the tasks they have to do) stay with them and not with you, and yet still progress the completion of these tasks.

RULE #1 – Describe the monkey

The dialogue between you and your staff member must not end until appropriate next moves have been identified and clearly specified as regards what has to be done with the task or issue.

Example from the staff member:

  • “I will schedule the project and inform the client when it will be completed and notify you if there are any problems”

 

Examples from the Manager:

  • “Prepare a one-page brief outlining the problems and possible solutions to this problem”

Benefits:

  1. Everyone knows that the dialogue will not end until “next moves” have been specified.
  2. People get better prepared when they know that their next moves need to be specified.
  3. The rule assumes action by staff.
  4. The more clearly we understand what needs to be done the greater the energy and motivation that exists for doing it.

RULE #2 – Assign the monkey

All monkeys shall be owned and handled at the lowest organization level consistent with their welfare.

Example:

  • “Mr. Avery is now John’s client so his satisfaction with our service is John’s responsibility”

Reasons:

  1. Staff has more collective time, energy and, in some cases, knowledge.
  2. Staff is closer to the work and so are better equipped to handle it.
  3. Creates more time for business management.
  4. Management should only handle tasks that only they can do.

Benefits:

Sometimes when you insist on the very best in your people’s work, you may encounter resistance because doing their very best often requires hard work. On the other hand, if you permit your people to be less than their best, they sometimes don’t actively resist. So it sometimes seems that they would rather do less than their best. The leaders we remember most in our lives are the ones that push us.

RULE #3 – Ensure the monkey

Every monkey leaving you on the back of one of your people must be covered by one of two insurance policies:

  1. recommend, then act, or
  2. act, then advise.

When people have freedom, they will make mistakes. That’s why monkeys need to be insured. At times staff may want to take more risk but the safety and needs of the business need to take precedence.

Monkey insurance policies

  1. Recommend, and then act. If there is a high risk then the team member should be told to recommend, then get approval from the manager and then act.
  2. Act, and then advise. If there is little risk, then the team member can act and then advise the manager of the results. As team members get more proficient in their tasks this will happen more, but the responsibility has to be delegated from the manager to ensure safety.

RULE #4 – Check on the monkey:

Proper follow-ups mean healthier monkeys. Every monkey should have a check-up appointment. You must specify the time and place for follow-up. Monkeys sometimes develop unexpected problems and the process of discovering and correcting problems in meetings tends to:

  1. Lower the boss’s anxieties
  2. Develop people’s competence through coaching – which increases the boss’s confidence in their competence and further decreases his or her anxieties
  3. The coaching increases the odds that the boss will eventually be able to delegate to that person

Delegation

Finally, some notes on when to delegate work and, in doing so, reduce the need to manage the monkeys. Managers should only delegate when they are confident that:

  1. The project is on the right track and staff know what has to be done
  2. Their people can successfully handle the project on their own
  3. That costs, timing, quantity and quality are acceptable
  4. That there is commitment from staff

Note: if you delegate without following these guidelines you will quickly find yourself the proud parent to a family (or troop) of monkeys.

By delegating effectively you give people responsibility, and this is the best way to develop responsibility in others.  It allows you to practice hands-off management as much as possible and hands-on management as much as necessary.

Next Steps

What are you going to do to manage your monkey?  For a free “Manage the Monkey” template to prioritize, re-assign and manage your monkeys please email andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au.

This overview is based on an article in HBR “Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” (1974).

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

5 Steps for Managing Delegated Work

The skill in delegating work comes after you have delegated it

Now you have delegated work you need to make sure it gets done. Just because you have delegated the work does not mean it will automatically get done how or when you want to.

 

Follow these five steps to help you manage your delegated work more effectively:

  1. Assign the task to one person.Don’t assign the task to multiple people, just one person who will be responsible. Get them to confirm that they understand the assignment and have accepted responsibility for it.  A good way of doing this is to ask them to share with you what they understand the assignment is, and to ask them, explicitly, if they will be responsible for this. Until this is done, the hand-off is not complete.
  2. Articulate a specific outcome. In other words, what exactly are you expecting the other person to deliver to you or for you? I always start the assignment with a verb (e.g., “Call,” “Notify,” “Write,” “Order,” etc.) and finish it with an objective “deliverable” (such as a report, email list, agenda, meeting etcetera). You have to be able to tell whether the task was completed as assigned.
  3. Include your delivery timetable. Some projects have hard fast deadlines. For example, I might tell someone I need a task done by “the close of business on Friday.” Others are not as time sensitive. I might say I need a task done, “anytime in the next two weeks.” Regardless, you have to express your expectations and be clear.
  4. Make yourself available for consultation. You want to be a resource, but you don’t want to micro-manage the other person. The best way to do this is to stay focused on the outcome rather than the process. I personally don’t care how the other person gets the job done (assuming it is ethical); I only care about the end-result.
  5. Track the delegated task on a to-do list. This is crucial. Not everyone you delegate to will have a good task management system in place. Perhaps those directly under your supervision will—because you trained them—but what about the others?

Doing this will save you time, effort and make you more effective when delegating.

 

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions,

5 Steps for Effectively Delegating & Managing Work

A 5-step process by which to effectively delegate and manage delegated work.

DelegateDelegating effectively allows managers and leaders to free up time; ensure the work is down to the right person at the right level and on-time; helps to develop people and their capabilities, and allows the managers and leaders to focus on what is important – not just what is urgent.

Creating the Conditions & Capabilities for Delegation

For effective delegation you need to have:

  1. A culture which supports and allows delegation to occur
  2. The desire and the ability to delegate
  3. People with the necessary abilities and attitudes that you can delegate to.

If you lack any one of these it makes delegation difficult.  As such be clear as to where you are on these factors and what you need to do to address them if necessary.  Yet even if these conditions are in place many managers and leaders find it difficult to delegate.  Common reasons for this include:

  • Short-term thinking – it would be quicker to do it myself
  • Perfectionist thinking – I can do it better myself
  • Requires an investment in training/mentoring of others – I don’t have anyone I can trust to delegate it to
  • I don’t know how to delegate

The key to enabling others to delegate is to understand what delegation entails.   I define delegation as:

A task, for which a nominated individual(s) is given specific responsibility, to complete in part or full, by a given time to produce an expected outcome or result, and for which you will receive feedback on.

The 5 Step Delegation Process

  1. Identify the Task – be clear on what the actual task is that you are asking someone to complete.  In doing this put a clear frame around it – what does it include and what does it exclude.  Providing a clear description and understanding of this is critical.
  2. Nominate the Individual(s) – Identify the person(s) who will be involved in the completion of the task.  Be clear as to why you want them to do it (is it for personal development reasons, part of what they need to be able to do to gain promotion etcetera?), and make sure they understand this.

    Delegation Process
    The 5-Step Delegation Process
  3. Define the Responsibility – when discussing it with the nominee(s) ask them to summarize what they have understood that you want them to do – this will quickly highlight any discrepancies or misunderstandings before they can become problematic.  Check that they are prepared for this responsibility and are committed to completing it within the scope and timeframes that you have determined.  You also need them to be clear on your expectations as regards their completing this task and the associated results and outcomes.
  4. Completion – do you want them to complete the task in full, or only in part, before they report back to you on progress made.  If it is an area in which they have little experience, or you have a low level of trust in their ability to do so, then get them to complete the first part before reporting back to you.  This gives you a checkpoint to ascertain how they are progressing, what further guidance is necessary, and if they can be left to their own devices to complete the task.
  5. Review – establish regular times for reviewing their progress.  If you are uncertain of their capabilities then you may have multiple review points during the work on the task, or you may ask them to report back once it has been completed if you have high confidence in them.  Reviews should be short and you must ensure that the responsibility for the work stays with the nominee(s), otherwise you will find the work delegated back to you!

By breaking the delegation process into these 5 simple steps it makes it easier for you to delegate, for those delegated to understand what they need to do and what is expected of them, and for the work to be done in a controlled manner which allows people to grow and develop without being micro-managed.  Use this with your people and see how much time and effort you free up for yourself, and how your people work more effectively.

We look further at delegation in the following article, How To Manage Those Delegated To.

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Do You REALLY have a Leadership Team?

The differences and the impacts of leadership by a team and by committees.

Teams or Committees?

Many CEOs and senior leaders in companies with which I have worked with often believe, in all sincerity, that they have a leadership team or executive team which works together to help focus and drives the business.

This, in my experience, is rarely the case. More often than it is not a leadership or executive team, but a committee.  This is true for all levels of the business but becomes increasingly more frequent the further you go up the hierarchy.

It is important to understand whether you have a leadership team or a leadership committee?  The impact of each is considerable and quite different.  Many problems that you may be experiencing with your leadership team have, at their root, the fact that the leadership team is actually a leadership committee.

Let me explain by looking at teams and committees in turn:

Teams

For the purpose of this article, I define a team as a group of individuals who are working together, towards a common goal or goals, in which they will either succeed or fail to do so together.  There is a strong common purpose, common understanding and real alignment to which all members of the team are committed.

A team that is well-aligned and works well together only does so because there is a high level of trust.  As such the team sets its own goals, and all the members share resources, information, and insights. There is open and frank communication between the members, with members, prepared to challenge each other in order to resolve issues and achieve the desired outcomes. Honesty and candor underpin the team allowing alternatives to be discussed and decisions are taken only after healthy and robust debate.

Committees

Here a group of people come together because of their title or role or function (and in a role as a representative of a given area or function) and agree to work together as long as it is individually beneficial, but at any time they can withhold information, resources, or not comply; also they can be rewarded differentially i.e. I win, you lose.  The individuals participate rather than promising an outcome or a result.

There is a lack of trust and there is no common purpose or any alignment, or it is very weak if there is any.  The focus of the committee tends not to be on achieving the outcomes, but on tasks and following process. Political battles and turf wars break out as committee members jockey for position.  They can withhold resources and information from others in doing so, and people will work or collaborate with others only so far as doing so helps their individual interests.  In a committee, people can win at the expense of the others. This means decisions are made on a sub-optimal basis and, although they can advance one area’s interests, may do so even though it causes damage to the business itself.

Which Do You Have – Teams or Committees?

So how do you know which you have?  Chance is that you probably already have a pretty good idea, but sometimes the group may be in a “gray area”.  In these instances, I suggest you apply the five criteria:

Andrew Cooke’s Five Golden Keys for Evaluating Groups

Look at the questions in the following areas.  If the answers tend to favor the group over the individual you have a team, if it is the individual over the group then you have a committee.

  1. Individual and Group Intention – how would you describe the individual intentions for each group member and the group overall?  Are they prepared to put the interest of others ahead of their own in advancing the group’s interests?  Are the group’s interests shared or do they vary from each individual?
  2. Effectiveness – is the group and the members focused on doing the right things?  Are there a clearly shared and understood set of priorities and outcomes? Is the group delivering progress towards the defined outcomes, or is progress being achieved in a multiple and conflicting directions against outcomes which may or may not be those which were defined initially? Are members participating or working to deliver outcomes.
  3. Communication –what kind of discussions and debate is there between group members?  Do they focus on the issue at hand or the personalities involved?  How well do they share with others what they are doing and why?  Do they have a shared and common understanding which they can consistently and clearly articulate?
  4. Relationships  – are they cooperative and collaborative, or is it a case of acting in the individual’s self-interest?  Is the nature of the relationship long-term, strategic and aligned; or are the relationships short-term and transactional in their focus?
  5. Power – is power perceived by the group and its members to be vested in the group itself, and thus all members are subordinate to the group; or is it perceived to be vested in certain individuals for who the group’s interests are subordinate to theirs?

Do you have a leadership team or a leadership committee?  Think carefully before you answer.  If your team is exhibiting signs of dysfunction then it is likely that you have a group that is a committee or has strong leanings to some of the characteristics of a committee than a team.

Consider one of the dysfunctional teams you either have been on or are a part of now.  Is your team a committee in disguise as a team?  If so, can you apply this distinction to diagnose the problem and get your team on track?

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